Bayesian algorithms with applications

Drovandi, Christopher Colin (2012) Bayesian algorithms with applications. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Advances in algorithms for approximate sampling from a multivariable target function have led to solutions to challenging statistical inference problems that would otherwise not be considered by the applied scientist. Such sampling algorithms are particularly relevant to Bayesian statistics, since the target function is the posterior distribution of the unobservables given the observables. In this thesis we develop, adapt and apply Bayesian algorithms, whilst addressing substantive applied problems in biology and medicine as well as other applications.

For an increasing number of high-impact research problems, the primary models of interest are often sufficiently complex that the likelihood function is computationally intractable. Rather than discard these models in favour of inferior alternatives, a class of Bayesian "likelihoodfree" techniques (often termed approximate Bayesian computation (ABC)) has emerged in the last few years, which avoids direct likelihood computation through repeated sampling of data from the model and comparing observed and simulated summary statistics. In Part I of this thesis we utilise sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) methodology to develop new algorithms for ABC that are more efficient in terms of the number of model simulations required and are almost black-box since very little algorithmic tuning is required. In addition, we address the issue of deriving appropriate summary statistics to use within ABC via a goodness-of-fit statistic and indirect inference.

Another important problem in statistics is the design of experiments. That is, how one should select the values of the controllable variables in order to achieve some design goal. The presences of parameter and/or model uncertainty are computational obstacles when designing experiments but can lead to inefficient designs if not accounted for correctly. The Bayesian framework accommodates such uncertainties in a coherent way. If the amount of uncertainty is substantial, it can be of interest to perform adaptive designs in order to accrue information to make better decisions about future design points. This is of particular interest if the data can be collected sequentially. In a sense, the current posterior distribution becomes the new prior distribution for the next design decision. Part II of this thesis creates new algorithms for Bayesian sequential design to accommodate parameter and model uncertainty using SMC.

The algorithms are substantially faster than previous approaches allowing the simulation properties of various design utilities to be investigated in a more timely manner. Furthermore the approach offers convenient estimation of Bayesian utilities and other quantities that are particularly relevant in the presence of model uncertainty.

Finally, Part III of this thesis tackles a substantive medical problem. A neurological disorder known as motor neuron disease (MND) progressively causes motor neurons to no longer have the ability to innervate the muscle fibres, causing the muscles to eventually waste away.

When this occurs the motor unit effectively ‘dies’. There is no cure for MND, and fatality often results from a lack of muscle strength to breathe. The prognosis for many forms of MND (particularly amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)) is particularly poor, with patients usually only surviving a small number of years after the initial onset of disease. Measuring the progress of diseases of the motor units, such as ALS, is a challenge for clinical neurologists. Motor unit number estimation (MUNE) is an attempt to directly assess underlying motor unit loss rather than indirect techniques such as muscle strength assessment, which generally is unable to detect progressions due to the body’s natural attempts at compensation. Part III of this thesis builds upon a previous Bayesian technique, which develops a sophisticated statistical model that takes into account physiological information about motor unit activation and various sources of uncertainties. More specifically, we develop a more reliable MUNE method by applying marginalisation over latent variables in order to improve the performance of a previously developed reversible jump Markov chain Monte Carlo sampler. We make other subtle changes to the model and algorithm to improve the robustness of the approach.

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ID Code: 57317
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Pettitt, Anthony N., McGree, James, Faddy, Malcolm, & Ridall, Gareth
Keywords: Bayesian algorithms, applications
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Past > Schools > Mathematical Sciences
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Feb 2013 03:23
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 10:54

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